Could Sports Return Without Fans This Summer?

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — With the state still locked down over coronavirus, many people in Massachusetts are wondering what kind of summer entertainment might be available during the pandemic.

On Friday, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that all festivals and parades would be canceled in the city of Boston until at least September 7. The Boston Pops also canceled the orchestra's traditional 4th of July concert, replacing it with a virtual one instead.

But is there still some hope to be had in sports? Is it conceivable that the Red Sox could still have a home game this year?

According to Mayor Walsh, for his administration, the decision about when to allow large-scale crowds to gather within city limits will be strictly guided by health data.

"For me personally, whether it's the Red Sox having fans in the stands, or opening up the businesses in the city of Boston... I'm going to want data," said Walsh. "It's hard to physical distance in a baseball park."

Walsh said that same data, along with health experts' advice, is also what is likely guiding the executives of Boston's sports teams around how and when to kick things off again.

"I think that [data] is what Major League Baseball is probably looking at, and the Red Sox," said Walsh. "That's what NHL and the Bruins are looking at, NBA and the Celtics, NFL and the Patriots. They're probably all looking at this information to see is it safe? Because the last thing they want to do is have an outbreak brought back to their stadium or their team of coronavirus when it could be avoided, so I think it's too early to tell yet."

Mayor Walsh said there could possibly be a way for athletes to play for fans to watch from home, before they would be allowed to fill the stands again.

"Obviously they can't practice social physical distancing on the field. But you can test the players to make sure, and somewhat quarantine the players by keeping them together," said Walsh. "I think if you think about bringing fans back, how do you do that? That's a different conversation that you'd have to have."

Before the city can move towards allowing large crowds to gather in places like Fenway Park, Mayor Walsh said there needs to be a more clear picture of the rate of coronavirus infection among residents. And that relies on getting more people tested.

"It all comes back, ironically, to testing. If we can get accurate tests, or the antibody tests that we should have results for next week on 1,000 people.... that will give us a snapshot of maybe where we stand in Boston," said Walsh. "The number of tests that we've taken so far compared to the population isn't enough to give us a gauge yet on how many people might have the antibodies, how many people might have recovered from coronavirus."

The city started to ramp up its testing efforts this week, with the final goal of testing 1,500 people per day for COVID-19. "Then we will get clearer data, clearer information, clearer metrics to move forward on," said Walsh.

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